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Colleges May Start Forcing Switch To eTextbooks

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the thousands-of-chiropractors-cry-out-in-dismay dept.

Education 419

An anonymous reader writes "Here's the new approach under consideration by college leaders and textbook manufacturers: 'Colleges require students to pay a course-materials fee, which would be used to buy e-books for all of them (whatever text the professor recommends, just as in the old model).' That may be 'the best way to control skyrocketing costs and may actually save the textbook industry from digital piracy,' proponents claim."

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Students will complain (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34016514)

Currently, students at most universities aren't required to buy textbooks. They can borrow them at the library (frequently on reserve) and save money (at the cost of time and convenience). I can't see this working without some opt-out mechanism at the very least.

Re:Students will complain (5, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016586)

They can borrow them at the library (frequently on reserve) and save money

In ye olden days, when we could get 5 cent per page photocopies, the university bookstore never seemed to sell any any books that cost much more than 5 cents per page, if you know what I mean.

The response of the professors/TAs/instructors was highly variable.

The publishing industry solution was wait for photocopy prices to raise to like ten cents or whatever it is now, and also bulk the heck out of the books like a walmart customer on HFCS. So, a 600 page calculus tome is going to cost me $60 to photocopy or $80 new... may as well buy it.

Re:Students will complain (2, Interesting)

RevWaldo (1186281) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016832)

Photocopying? How 20th century. I've taken snapshots of textbook pages with my Droid that were quite readable, both on the Droid and pulled up onto my laptop. It'd take some doing to do this for an entire textbook, but it'd hardly be rocket surgery to rig up a stand to hold the smartphone/camera.

.

Re:Students will complain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34016884)

Indeed. In some classes, I've done similar where I've gone to the book store and snapped photos of the problem sections, and simply attended class / looked up relevant information on the web and still was able to complete my assignments without the $100+ cost

Re:Students will complain (4, Interesting)

tophermeyer (1573841) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016902)

Absolutely serious when I say this, my college Fraternity used pledges to do just that (probably still do).

All the guys taking a given class would throw in a few bucks for one copy of the text, then as if by magic we would receive an electronic version.

Terrible copyright infringement, pyramid scheming, slavery, hazing, and all that. But it was so convenient.

Re:Students will complain (4, Funny)

LoudMusic (199347) | more than 3 years ago | (#34017136)

Absolutely serious when I say this, my college Fraternity used pledges to do just that (probably still do).

All the guys taking a given class would throw in a few bucks for one copy of the text, then as if by magic we would receive an electronic version.

Terrible copyright infringement, pyramid scheming, slavery, hazing, and all that. But it was so convenient.

You mean righteous distribution of knowledge?

Re:Students will complain (3, Insightful)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016640)

What university did you go to?!?

I don't know of any university where you could do that because professors always want you to have the latest edition; which the library never has or if they do, just one copy - yeah, share that with 40 classmates. They then assign reading and problems out of that particular edition.

Which is completely asinine - especially for undergraduate courses. I mean really, when was the time there was a break through in accounting, basic physics, chemistry, computer science, psychology, and on and on. A $15 Dover classic is more than adequate for all undergraduate classes and if there is some new ground breaking discovery then have the student look it up in a journal because a textbook is 10 years behind anyway. A new textbook with the same material and some colorful graphics runs what? $150?!?! For absolutely no new material!

Just one big fucking racket! Professors should be ashamed of themselves.

Re:Students will complain (1)

retchdog (1319261) | more than 3 years ago | (#34017050)

Buy the old edition for $10 and photocopy just the problems (probably ~50 pages, or ~100 at most). The material is the same old schlock anyway and you don't need the current version unless maybe you're a true "template learner" (read: moron).

The professors should be doubly ashamed; they're milking their students and usually getting jackshit in royalties. Exploiting people for someone else for nearly free is the lowest of the low.

Then again, once i tried giving the equivalent problems for each edition of the book (since all they did was rearrange them) going back 3 editions. Nevertheless, some students managed to get confused about which edition they had (!), so I had to put the kibosh on it. Sigh. With such a braindead group of consumers, it's no wonder there's a racket.

Re:Students will complain (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016776)

This will also kill the used book market.

Re:Students will complain (5, Insightful)

zeugma-amp (139862) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016866)

This will also kill the used book market.

That's the idea.

Re:Students will complain (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34017056)

That's a good enough reason for us to stop this before it becomes reality.

Another good reason are students who share books. This is not at all uncommon if you have a roommate with some of the same courses, but at different hours.
This will effectively kill this saving too.

The library argument isn't too persuasive, though, because the libraries should still have the paper version.

But all in all, this will hit the poorer students the hardest.

Student book library (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#34017042)

For a time I ran the ACM chapter at San Francisco State. We collected used textbooks from students and kept them in a library in the CS lab, and would lend them out to members as needed.

With an e-book system, that type of system probably wouldn't be possible.

Just a way to kill the used book market... (5, Insightful)

RocketRabbit (830691) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016526)

The irony of this proposal is that many professors, realizing that book prices are just obscene in the academic market, are preparing their own materials and giving them to the students for the cost of printing them.

This is clearly just an attempt by the textbook marketers to kill the secondhand book sellers.

As my wife says, "calculus has not changed much in the last 6 years, but my textbook has gone through 3 revisions in that time!"

Re:Just a way to kill the used book market... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34016646)

No no no! That is wrong thinking. Shame on you! This is a step into the future by the universities, a step away from the hide-bound methods of the past and towards the limitless opportunities of the digital age. Don't you see? Now information will be free, all of the text will be copy-pasted into new research. Footnotes will become a thing of the past as whole texts are simply hyper-linked to the next work in a unending daisy-chain of knowledge. Freedom. Prosperity. Dogs and cats living together. What an age to be alive!

Of course it is a little suspicious that they waited this long to roll out the ebook tech, but once they ebook their libraries....

Wait, you mean this is just for the text books? Screw that, I got ten books to unload.

Re:Just a way to kill the used book market... (2, Informative)

RealGrouchy (943109) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016668)

The irony of this proposal is that many professors, realizing that book prices are just obscene in the academic market, are preparing their own materials and giving them to the students for the cost of printing them.

Up here in Canada, there are strict regulations on such photocopying. Professors order a course pack from a copy shop made up of hand-picked chapters from various books, which the students can then pick up, but because of the per-page photocopying license fees [accesscopyright.ca] , these often end up costing the student about as much as the original textbook.

- RG>

Re:Just a way to kill the used book market... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34016718)

What part of "preparing their own material" didn't you understand?

Re:Just a way to kill the used book market... (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016720)

The irony of this proposal is that many professors, realizing that book prices are just obscene in the academic market, are preparing their own materials and giving them to the students for the cost of printing them.

20 years ago I had a EE-type professor whom gave us photocopies of about 2 to 3 pages out of perhaps a hundred books in the field. Yes several hundred pages of photocopies per semester. In his opinion it was within his fair rights use to copy small snippets out of each book for purely educational purposes. We also spent a lot of time doing educational / editorial compare -n- contrast the treatment of class AB amplifier second order harmonic analysis in this book vs that book, etc etc. He also delighted in providing copies of US military training course manuals which he claimed he paid for in his taxes thus could photocopy freely. I can verify that at least some US military enlisted electronics classes are college level work.

Re:Just a way to kill the used book market... (2, Insightful)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016748)

As my wife says, "calculus has not changed much in the last 6 years, but my textbook has gone through 3 revisions in that time!"

I don't think basic calculus has changed in a few centuries.

Re:Just a way to kill the used book market... (1)

Macthorpe (960048) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016846)

I don't think basic calculus has changed in a few centuries.

Are you sure the way we teach calculus hasn't changed at all in that time?

Re:Just a way to kill the used book market... (2, Insightful)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016978)

I don't think basic calculus has changed in a few centuries.

Are you sure the way we teach calculus hasn't changed at all in that time?

Maybe - it's gotten worse. I didn't truly understand it until I had physics. Math texts are garbage. Except for maybe the IEEE's Calculus Tutorial. That had applications and you actually learned what the hell Calculus was invented for in the first place.

Re:Just a way to kill the used book market... (1)

fluch (126140) | more than 3 years ago | (#34017210)

Are you sure the way we teach calculus hasn't changed at all in that time?

The way we teach calculus has not changed so much that you would need every second year a new revision of a calculus book.

If a new revision is needed every second year, then there has been something wrong with the text book in the first place or there is something wrong with the publisher or both options apply (and somehow I think the latter is the case).

"A few centuries"... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34016880)

In acentury... sure. A few centuries? Nope. q.v. Cauchy's wrong theorem [google.com] . Basically two centuries ago, analysis was a mess and it took a lot of hard work from Cauchy, Fourier, Weierstrass, Dedekind and many others to clean things up and get to a solid foundation with the characterisation of the reals as the unique ordered field and the epsilon-delta definition of continuity.

Re:"A few centuries"... (2, Insightful)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#34017044)

In acentury... sure. A few centuries? Nope. q.v. Cauchy's wrong theorem [google.com] . Basically two centuries ago, analysis was a mess and it took a lot of hard work from Cauchy, Fourier, Weierstrass, Dedekind and many others to clean things up and get to a solid foundation with the characterisation of the reals as the unique ordered field and the epsilon-delta definition of continuity.

Is that something that is taught in an undergraduate Calculus sequence? You know Calc 1-3? Nope.

An undergraduate Calculus sequence can be taught quite well with a Dover classic for $20 and it'd probably be superior at that to today's overpriced crap that does nothing but put extra money in the pocket of some academic.

Math notation has significantly changed (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 3 years ago | (#34017032)

As my wife says, "calculus has not changed much in the last 6 years, but my textbook has gone through 3 revisions in that time!"

I don't think basic calculus has changed in a few centuries.

Try reading the translated Principia Mathematica. (I won't ask you to go read the Latin)

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pm-notation/ [stanford.edu]

The math itself hasn't changed. The way we write it has. It's like Shakespearian English vs. Modern English with all the variants in between.

Re:Just a way to kill the used book market... (1)

BuckaBooBob (635108) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016822)

Open Source Text Books...

Once the transition to Ebooks is made it will be Super easy for Open Source Ebooks to replace Over Priced Text Books..

When you get down to it... a Wiki is The best was to disseminate information for a class.. You have a open discussion section where people can engage each other on topic matter.. and updates can easily be moderated by the professions/assistants so that everything is very up to date and reflects relevant information.

Re:Just a way to kill the used book market... (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016842)

This is exactly right. Somehow the fine article proposes "saving the textbook industry" as something we'd actually want to do. The textbook industry adds no value to your education. All value comes from the university. The best thing for everyone, student, professor, parent, or administrator is for the textbook industry to die and be replaced by online, collaborative, peer reviewed textbooks. The textbook publishing industry adds no value, and is nothing but a parasite on the education industry.

Re:Just a way to kill the used book market... (3, Insightful)

WitnessForTheOffense (1669778) | more than 3 years ago | (#34017180)

Not that they should, but the textbook industry does add quite a bit of value to the academic experience if your instructors just teach from the text, use quizzes provided by the publisher, and only provide their own feedback when there are questions.

That being said, I'm all for instructors having to actually develop the material for their courses. The problem is that they can claim they don't have time to develop their courses alone because they're teaching so many students because enrollment is up and they don't want to turn anyone away if they don't have to. Though this will depend on the type of college.

The funny thing is to hear these instructors complain that distance learning is killing their jobs because it's really just exposing the fact that they're choosing to only be conduits of information rather than actual teachers who develop coursework.

Re:Just a way to kill the used book market... (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016844)

As my wife says, "calculus has not changed much in the last 6 years, but my textbook has gone through 3 revisions in that time!"

I'd wager that any calculus being taught at the undergrad level hasn't changed in the past 50 years, much less 6...

Re:Just a way to kill the used book market... (3, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016872)

Sure it has. Undergrad calculus has gotten a lot simpler in the past 50 years.

Re:Just a way to kill the used book market... (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#34017174)

The irony of this proposal is that many professors, realizing that book prices are just obscene in the academic market, are preparing their own materials and giving them to the students for the cost of printing them.

Wait, where did you go to school?

My professors WROTE many of the texts they used, or the would use the texts of their department buddies, who in turn would use their texts.

Professors are often the authors, especially in the stable social sciences and arts, and business areas, where not much new happens quickly.

Etexts are often tied to some form of DRM, which prevents duplication, but also kills off Used Book markets.

For the most part, the publishers have contrived to prevent used Ebooks from being sold, or given away on the pretense of preventing piracy and illegal duplication.

Unless or Until someone takes them to court you can expect this to continue to the point that a book collection is a dead end for society and the owner as well.

and it will cut out the used materials vendors. (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016532)

Which is nice. Don't let anyone resell their materials from a prior year. The textbook companies will be thrilled!

I'm guessing it's not about cost control, really. (5, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016536)

They just want a more effective way to shut used-textbook merchants out of the market so they can more fully exploit their students.

Re:I'm guessing it's not about cost control, reall (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34017176)

Optimally you won't mind that, everything could end up much cheaper and much more convenient. At my highschool we had sort of similar scheme (though with analogue books obviously) - pay yearly what was at most 1/6th (probably less) the cost of full new set, get all needed books from the library, during the first week / first lesson of each subject (and of course return them at the year end; it was still a better deal than own set & resales). Sure, most of those books was around one decade old, but also for most of them it didn't matter - especially if the whole thing was organized by the school.

Optimally...

Bulk buying (1)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016548)

Might offer a bit more bulk-buying pricing power, but not sure if I like the eBook aspect.
Granted, this seems analogous to requiring new purchases.

I expect the following: (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34016550)

Book prices will still remain close to $100.
You'll lose your right to resell your old books.
Accessibility for us disabled folks will be an artificial extra cost, to satisfy the imaginary property brigade who think text-to-speech isn't a right.

Re:I expect the following: (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34016642)

Disabled? You don't deserve to be in college. You deserve to be shot and liquefied. Text to Speech a right? You have a mandatory right to not exist and I demand you exercise that right, immediately.

Signed,
Wolf BearClaw

Re:I expect the following: (5, Insightful)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#34017008)

Book prices will still remain close to $100.
You'll lose your right to resell your old books.

A bigger issue is that you lose the right to retain your textbooks. Given rapid edition changes, the right to resell was often of limited value and theoretical anyway; OTOH, most of the people I know kept many of their textbooks and occasionally reference them even a decade or more after leaving school; during high school, one of the ways I learned things outside of school was from my fathers old college texts.

Bah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34016566)

Back in my day, I had to steal text books in physical form from the university bookstore. Now you whippersnappers can just log in to your compuboxes and mash a few keys. Also, the bookstore was located uphill in both ways.

Re:Bah (1)

tophermeyer (1573841) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016960)

I recall many of my professors would kindly put their textbooks on reserve at the library and suggest that we could just do our readings there instead of buying the book. This worked fine until someone in the class decided they would rather have it all to themselves and liberate it.

Control Skyrocketing Costs?? (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34016572)

Are you kidding me? This is designed to kill the used textbook market.

Buying used books (1)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016582)

Or has that been integrated into "digital piracy" definitions already?

Victom of eTextbook (3, Funny)

SlayerofGods (682938) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016588)

I was forced to pick up a e version of my math textbook for 70 bucks, no option but to do so since the book is tied to the eclass that the collage out sourced it's vitual classroom to. What makes it extra special is the profssor lets us take the final in person with open book... but we're not allowed to have any type of computer. So if we want to actually use the book on the final we're force to print the whole damn thing out. Collage is dumb.

Re:Victom of eTextbook (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34016656)

collage? profssor? Collage is dumb.

Anybody who claims to be going to college and can't spell it is a moron.

That would be you.

Re:Victom of eTextbook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34016722)

Oh no not typos!

Re:Victom of eTextbook (4, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016794)

Oh no not typos!

Once is a typo. Twice is not knowing how to spell the word.

Re:Victom of eTextbook (4, Funny)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016762)

and can't spell it is a moron

No, you mean a moran.

Re:Victom of eTextbook (2, Interesting)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016750)

I wasn't really incensed about textbooks until the bookstore tried to sell our class what looked like a marginally-more-professional version of "photocopy the whole book" (cheap paper - including the cover, pages rotated 90 degrees, that stupid plastic binding) for $90 when you can get the hardcover for $45 on Amazon [amazon.com] .

I mean, come on.

Re:Victom of eTextbook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34016852)

Nah, can't really blame the professor for this. There are so many idiots in college today who do nothing but fart around. If they allowed students to have computers during tests, the students would just share answers via wifi or play games. At the college I went to, the instructor had to actually take away some dumb student's Iphone because he wouldn't stop screwing around with it during class. The guy was told multiple times to put the thing away. If I was the instructor, I would have just kicked him out of the class.

It gets even worse: the more advanced trivial things like calculators become (with color screens and all), the more distractions there will be. Some guys will be having a DooM deathmatch during class on these things soon, while pretending to be working.

Re:Victom of eTextbook (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016874)

Collage is dumb.

So are you. Collage is a kind of art. And whatever school you're attending, you should get your money back, and go back to fourth grade, your spelling and grammar is atrocious.

Re:Victom of eTextbook (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016914)

I really feel bad for you young folks in school. College has gotten so goddamn expensive that for a typical middle class kid, it's becoming almost out of reach. The system thinks that student loans are "financial aid" when that couldn't be further from the truth: they make indentured servants - except for medical school (I know a doc who paid her $187,000 debt the first couple of years out of residency - 33 - 34 years old).

I"m not sure if a college degree is even worth it anymore. It's really white collar trade school when you think about it. If you really want to be educated, you'd get a Liberal Arts or Science degree (both pay shit on their own). A degree in engineering? Vocational training. Medical, Law, Business, Nursing, accounting, school all the same thing.

Of course no matter what you do, you gotta compete with people from all over the World now.

A more reasonable proposition (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34016594)

Universities collaborate to produce textbooks (pay the author, an editor, possibly some layout/graphics staff) and then release the finished textbooks under a Creative Commons license (by-sa-nc for example).

You know, to provide better service and education for their students and society as a whole.

Re:A more reasonable proposition (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016994)

BINGO

This is one of the biggest reasons I use CC and recommend it to EVERYONE I can.

I also want to get politics out of textbooks and going to a wiki style system of creating "texts" that can be used broadly. The Political Correctness that has infected our educational system is horrible, and it has made it impossibly difficult to write a text books that all the various "interest groups" can agree on is nearly impossible.

Which means our whole system is doomed, right??

Only the parasites of the textbook industry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34016604)

Only the parasites of the textbook industry could think this was a "helpful" idea. Lemme guess - they'll be selling DRM-boobytrapped versions that expire at the end of the term, but cost every bit as much as a dead-tree, non-expiring version.

Textbooks are a total scam (5, Insightful)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016622)

By the time I was in grad school at GaTech, undergraduate courses were spinning revs every quarter, and the only thing that would change would be the problems. This eliminated the book buy-back market almost entirely, because profs of course would require problems from the book.

Undergrad level calc has not changed in the last 20 years. There's no reason someone shouldn't be able to use a calc book handed down from a parent or older sibling. Yet, term after term, every student is nearly compelled to spend $140 on a new book.

It's no wonder our educational system from cradle to PhD is a complete failure. Institutions are too focused on productizing and profiteering rather than growing the world's best talent.

Re:Textbooks are a total scam (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016834)

Undergrad level calc has not changed in the last 20 years.

In terms of what they teach in most forms of undregrad ... is it only 20 years? I got the impression when I took calculus that it might have been way longer than 20 years.

Now, some books might have gotten better at teaching it, so that's a factor. But, generally speaking, I'd say undergraduate calculus must be pretty stable by now.

Institutions are too focused on productizing and profiteering rather than growing the world's best talent.

Sadly, funding and prestige come from the former. The latter is a side-effect.

Re:Textbooks are a total scam (3, Interesting)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 3 years ago | (#34017062)

The reason they do this, is to get around academic fraud/cheating.

Which is why textbooks shouldn't have any "work" problems, they should be created and handed out by the Professor/Teacher, as handouts. Perhaps even have several sets that are handed out and updated each semester by the publisher. Texts remain the same, but there is a complimentary handout/workbook that contains all the problems.

That would be too easy.

Why are costs skyrocketing? (2, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016626)

Has the cost of paper and shipping gone up substantially in the past few years? If not, I don't see how ebooks will amount to some sort of major cost savings for a textbook manufacturer. All other costs are the same in an ebook. As almost everybody else in this thread has already deduced, this is more about shutting out the used book market.

Re:Why are costs skyrocketing? (2, Interesting)

themightythor (673485) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016894)

I don't know about paper, but I'd guess that shipping prices are highly correlated to the price of diesel. And, as you can see here [eia.gov] , it's about triple what it was 10 years ago. That cost isn't just factored in to getting the book from the distributor to the store where you buy it, but in every step of the manufacturing process where something has to be moved from one place to another. And it's not like business to just eat those costs, so they pass them on to you.

Now imagine if the entire process of making a book were electronic. There's no reams of paper to ship to print it on, no sending the book from the distributor to the consumer. All of those shipping costs are now nil. The million dollar question is: what portion of the price of a book is shipping?

Re:Why are costs skyrocketing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34017018)

Don't forget shutting out the retail market. Every step, some middleman wants to mark up 100% and make a profit. So the university bookstore gets a pallet of underwater basketweaving textbooks wholesale at $50 and marks up to $100. Got to pay the stockers, cashiers, $1M/year administrators, rent (if any) electricity, heat, etc.

Now the publisher can sell direct to you at $100 (perhaps minus a little?) and keep an additional $50 profit on top of their current profit. A good deal, for them.

Re:Why are costs skyrocketing? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#34017030)

Has the cost of paper and shipping gone up substantially in the past few years?

Yes, the cost of printing books (which isn't just the cost of paper) has been going up faster than the general rate of inflation for quite some time.

Re:Why are costs skyrocketing? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34017218)

> The cost of printing has been going up...

Bullshit. My nonprofit publishes books in small runs (like many niche academic works). In 2000, it cost roughly 10,000 to get paper bound into books by an offset press, because the minimum run was 1000 books. This was the absolute smallest you could do. Most of that was waste; we had to pay to store the extras. Price $10 a unit.

In 2010, the cost for a run of similar spec books is roughly $7 a unit via Lulu.com, one of several print on demand options. Our smalled possible run is... one book. Our storage costs are zero. Lulu even handles fulfillment, so we've closed our ecommerce site and don't handle shipping. Other services compete with Lulu. Print on demand book binders are shrinking rapidly, so expect healthy competition to increase.

Similar innovations in the editing of books have driven down costs there: our editors work from home.

Academic books are so expensive because:

a) printing niche books with tiny runs drives up cost per unit... (whoops that's largely untrue anymore).
b) industry is bloated and screwing everyone.

Re:Why are costs skyrocketing? (1)

sinai (989310) | more than 3 years ago | (#34017124)

Has the cost of paper and shipping gone up substantially in the past few years?

Yes. According to Financial Times as of this spring: "...disruptions in Chile and Finland, which together account for more than 10 per cent of the world's pulp market, have tightened the market just when Chinese consumption is soaring". And don't you remember the lines at the gas station in Summer 08 when oil peaked @ $147?

So who actually has the power in the university org structure to effect this change? Is it teachers who shill for the publishers or should we look further up the chain? And will the cost savings in production *actually* be reflected in the student price? In many cases I can get a "like new" used CD on Amzn for half of the cost of the MP3 album...

Save the textbook industry? (4, Interesting)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016630)

Is that why the prices are gargantuan compared to other books?

You know what the difference usually is between the fourth and fifth edition of a textbook is? A little bit of reformatting, and a couple extra anecdotes. Yet the professors are told that they need to use the new material and they force it down on the students so that someone who wrote a book 5 years ago gets some income for the next 10 years, or maybe its the publishers, I don't know.

Point is - they set up the used book stores in colleges for a reason, so you could re-use text books. In some fields this has worked well, but in other fields, authors have just started to rehash their books to make money.

In all honesty - education material should not be privatized, their shouldn't be an issue with digital piracy because it should all be made publicly available. Wanting to LEARN shouldn't come with a cost. When I pay money to a college or university its for the professor's time, who is an expert in the field and can answer any questions the textbooks can't. It also covers the upkeep of the infrastructure. The only cost incurred with a textbook should be the ones manufacturing the book.

Education as a money making industry sickens me a little.

Re:Save the textbook industry? (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34017156)

You know what the difference usually is between the fourth and fifth edition of a textbook is? A little bit of reformatting, and a couple extra anecdotes. Yet the professors are told that they need to use the new material and they force it down on the students so that someone who wrote a book 5 years ago gets some income for the next 10 years, or maybe its the publishers, I don't know.

Back when I went to school, the teachers started by handing out errata sheets we could insert into our books if we bought an older used version.
This isn't done anymore?

Farewell to Ownership (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34016648)

In the near future, "Ownership" of materials like textbooks and computers, will be discouraged, and eventually phased-out in favor of licensing.

For a "small monthly fee" or a "small fee", you will be allowed to use certain e-materials, and allocated time on a mainframe.

Drop the course? No Refund for the text/computer time.

Finish the course? No selling of the text.

Want to help the next generation? Your paper notes are the only thing you can "sell".

Ownership and first sale are slowly being phased out. We need to control who is learning what, and keep learning to the priveledged few.

Since more and more people can afford education, we need to increase little "fees" here and there, to make sure only the truly rich and deserving can afford it.

A new world order is coming, change is coming, get ready.

Bullshit... (4, Insightful)

nebaz (453974) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016654)

We are not paying all that money just for the textbook material, we are paying for the knowledge of the professors, and the shared experience with other people. Putting additional restrictions on the materials themselves for profit goes against the entire ethos of open information sharing, which is the cornerstone of university research.

Re:Bullshit... (2, Interesting)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 3 years ago | (#34017154)

Here's some interesting notes that kids may not realize yet:

- When the batteries are dead and the local bookstore is closed, paper books can still be read.
- You don't have to wait for the publisher to remove the bugs in your textbooks, you can just use Raid.
- If you spill bear on your book you can let it dry out and it will still be readable.
- Ten or twenty years from now your ebooks will be unreadable, but you'll still be able to pull an old textbook off the shelf to look something up.

My experience with e-textbooks (5, Informative)

garcia (6573) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016664)

I attend an online university for my masters program. As part of this program, because it is new, they offered a pilot whereby students enrolled from the outset would receive free e-books. Being that I am poor (single income, one child and a SAHM) I welcomed this offer.

The software used is miserable to operate (slow, buggy, required me to sit on with their tech support for over an hour to resolve an upgrade issue). It takes upwards of 15 minute to print a single chapter because it adds text with your name and e-mail address assigned to the account (for DRM ) to every page.

While I am grateful for the free books, if I had the choice between the two I'd definitely go hardcover. The student should be able to make the choice between the two mediums, not the school regardless of whatever their motivation is.

Re:My experience with e-textbooks (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016964)

It takes upwards of 15 minute to print a single chapter because it adds text with your name and e-mail address assigned to the account (for DRM ) to every page.

Wow. I wonder if they have any idea how easy it is to dump postscript output to a file, run it through sed, and produce a clean document.

Re:My experience with e-textbooks (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34017074)

It takes upwards of 15 minute to print a single chapter

Kind of misses the point of an ebook, making it more of a publish yourself at home. The other issue, is unless you get ink and paper for free (aka printing it at work) a hardcover will probably be cheaper.

DRM ebooks I can't loan out or sell back, awesome! (4, Interesting)

Americium (1343605) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016680)

Or perhaps maybe give out a grant to write a textbook. Open textbooks for freshmen level classes should be possible, and is being worked on. It's ridiculous making freshmen pay $200 for a physics textbook, that IMHO is worse than the one I paid $80 for 10 years ago.

There are about 400 students in the 100 level physics classes at my school. That's $80,000 for just 1 year of books, in one subject, only freshmen level, at one university.

So obviously it's millions per year per subject nationwide. Don't you think for a couple million we could get someone to write a free textbook, and then we can save millions year after year.

It's almost as insane as paying so much for journal subscriptions, instead of switching to open publications.

eBooks vs. Used Books (4, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016688)

e-Books are generally DRM-controlled to the extent that students can't sell them as used textbooks. This actually increases the price over paper books in most situations.

Re:eBooks vs. Used Books (1)

sxeraverx (962068) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016976)

Clearly you haven't been to college in a while. The resale value of textbooks is next-to-nil. Bookstores will routinely buy back books at a quarter of the price you paid for them (if you were fortunate enough to be able to buy the used version), and then resell them at their original price. I understand a "brokerage fee", but what college bookstores do is pretty exorbitant.

And a new edition screws over folks on both sides of the split: people have to buy new books as used ones aren't available, but at the same time, the people from the previous semester can't sell them back to the bookstores, because they're no longer in demand. This further lowers the average resale value.

Re:eBooks vs. Used Books (3, Interesting)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 3 years ago | (#34017178)

I know about the new editions every year, with such minor changes that it's clearly a scam. One would think that with the internet you could arrange a direct sale of your textbook to a student on the same campus. Who needs bookstores?

Re:eBooks vs. Used Books (1)

jirka (1164) | more than 3 years ago | (#34017024)

That's why we need free DRM-free books. As a college textbook writer you do NOT make much money. Only in the very rare cases when your book is a very low level book for a course taken by most students and happens to be picked by many colleges. There are VERY FEW authors making money on college textbooks. The publishers on the other hand make a lot of money, keep changing editions, etc... Most professors that wrote a textbook made almost no money on it, and essentially donated time that they could have spent advancing their career (doing research) and getting a raise. So writing a textbook can generally be a financial downside.

The trick would be to make more professors aware of the idea of free books just like free software. Then publishers would only get to charge for actual added value.

It's true I made my two books (http://www.jirka.org/ra/ and http://www.jirka.org/diffyqs/ [jirka.org] ) use the NC (noncommercial) clause, but I may be persuaded in the future to drop it. I wouldn't mind not getting any royalties for a reasonably priced version, but I right now want to retain that control.

Renting, not buying (2, Insightful)

hachete (473378) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016726)

No way is anyone going to be *buying* any books. You'll be renting it.

some professors get kickbacks from book sales (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016754)

some professors get kickbacks from book sales and they seem to be ones who are the ones who like to find ways to force you to buy them for that class.

Re:some professors get kickbacks from book sales (1)

twitcher101 (1712418) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016906)

Nonsense. That would be grounds for firing, and in fact seeming too close to a sales rep is grounds for disciplinary action.

Re:some professors get kickbacks from book sales (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34017114)

You must be from a more civilized country. Around here the breakdown is about 90% know its a scam, 5% are the Kool Aid drinkers whom think they'll retire rich and haven't figured out the hollywood accounting scams that mean they'll never actually get a penny, and 5% wish they could be Kool Aid drinkers but are too new to have even been asked to write the book.

Re:some professors get kickbacks from book sales (1)

sxeraverx (962068) | more than 3 years ago | (#34017194)

What do you base this on?

My quantum mechanics professor writes the textbook for his class (and probably what amounts to many others at other universities). His cut of the $100-$150 (depending on source) book is $5 (which he graciously offered to refund us if we weren't happy with it).

And that's not kickbacks, that's royalties. Now, I'm operating under the assumption this theoretical kickback per copy is less than the royalties. It wouldn't make any sense otherwise. At a theoretical maximum per copy of $5 per copy, supposing a class size of 80 people, that's $400 per semester.

The time it takes to restructure a course to deal with a new textbook isn't worth $400 to a professor. And that's not even taking into account the serious breach in ethics associated with taking a kickback for switching textbooks.

Please base your accusations on something concrete before you go and attack people who are screwed by the system just as badly as you are.

Colleges are such masters of cost control (2, Interesting)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016764)

Considering that college tuition (something that the college has even greater control over) is one of the few things to increase in price faster than textbooks, I see this as being a really great idea.
Actually, I think this is in part that the colleges are upset that the money that goes to textbooks doesn't go to them. They obviously don't care about how much the cost goes up, just look at tuition. What the college administrators care about is that the parents and students see this steady increase. If they can move this into a fee that is paid right along with tuition, they can hide this cost and get rid of one of the sources of complaint.

A "Rental" system might be a good model. (2, Insightful)

OITLinebacker (1799770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016798)

Why not work with the local "bookstore" to have available for a semester's rent an e-reader (kindle, iPad, Nook, etc) pre-loaded with all of your books? With some additional coverage for insurance for lost/stolen/broken devices. Nice for the students to just submit their course listing to the bookstore before the semester break and come back and get all of your "books" for roughly the same price (or cheaper if the e-versions would actually be reasonably priced...lol) as buying the hardcopy. The extra bonus is getting the reader (and possibly all of it's apps) to use of the semester. Seems like everybody could profit from the deal. Well, not the paper mills and printing press folks.

Right to Read (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34016836)

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html

That crazy kooky Stallman. What nonsense fearmongering will he rant about next?

...and for those of us who don't buy books? (3, Informative)

bieber (998013) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016868)

This is ludicrous. I'm a little over halfway through my CS degree, and I've generally managed to avoid buying textbooks (picked up probably three or four the entire time I've been attending classes) because, well, pretty much anything I could possibly need to learn from a textbook is already available for free online anyways, and its saved me easily thousands of dollars. Now schools are talking about simultaneously taking away students' ability to seek out alternative sources of information and forcing intrusive DRM technologies on them? Thank God I'll be graduated before this gets a chance to become commonplace.

And before replies start pouring in about how I'm cheating myself and my grades will suffer...you're wrong. I'm consistently making 'A's in my classes, book or no book.

Free the textbooks (2, Informative)

jirka (1164) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016878)

Or of course, they could just use free (as in freedom and price) CC licensed textbooks. I wrote two such undergraduate textbooks:

http://www.jirka.org/ra/ [jirka.org]
http://www.jirka.org/diffyqs/ [jirka.org]

That should save some money. Both are classes where a traditional textbook is $100 or so

An end to fair use (1)

twitcher101 (1712418) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016888)

By "piracy" they of course refer to fair use for academic purposes. I have had multiple publishers reps tell me that any use of their materials without payment to them is piracy, and then they tell me they have never heard of fair use, and that I must have made it up...

At OSU (3, Informative)

lavagolemking (1352431) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016898)

Professors here at Ohio State have a variety of ways to deal with secondhand book sales. Some textbooks here are only available in looseleaf form so they cannot be sold back. Many are "OSU Edition" copies, to ensure they cannot be sold online; to book stores in other regions; or at all after 1--2 years once the publisher comes out with the next edition. Barns & Noble, the "official" OSU bookstore [bncollege.com] has a program called "textbook rental" to curb resale of used textbooks. Then, one of the worst models is in the Physics department [ohio-state.edu] ; they have an agreement with the publishers and a company called WebAssign [webassign.net] , where although you can buy a used copy of a textbook, only the new ones have a "product key" which you need to do your (required) online homework.

Under none of these circumstances do professors pay anything for students, and (for obvious) reasons professors get the materials for free and most don't have a clue what the books cost until a student tells them (which they ignore). I can't say I'm surprised by any of this. Publishers make enormous profits by revising textbooks and requiring newer versions, and because students (who have to buy the books) don't have a choice. All the while, these new techniques are being upheld as "cost saving" and "convenient" for students. Consumer choice and the free market at work I guess.

To the hell with online textbooks!

Bogus (1)

llung (1841162) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016900)

Totally bogus. This is just an attempt to kill the used book market. As it is, textbook revisions are introduced at a rate far higher than actual changes in content; all in order to make older used books obsolete. The entire textbook publishing industry is a sham. Look at so-called "international" editions - these are often identical to the US version, except maybe for physical differences (lighter paper for lower freight cost, or b&w instead of color to make it cheaper to print) or perhaps minor changes in language due to localization. Yet these books are not meant for domestic consumption even though they are perfectly capable of doing the job at a fraction (often 1/4 to 1/2) of the cost of an official US edition.

No sympathy whatsoever (1)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016908)

I had one year where I went to college and my books cost more (1200$) than my tuition (900$).

Students get swindled by booksellers, particularly campus ones. The markup is outrageous. Coming up with a new "version" of a book is all about screwing the used book market. eBooks is just another way to screw students for more money.

If the government wanted to reduce education costs, and make university/college more available to people, they should take a long hard look at some of the common practices that are pretty criminal. Just like controlling health care costs start at looking at what pharmaceutical companies charge for drugs. If people are forced to make purchasing decisions, its not really market driven anymore.

I hate this sort of thing (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016922)

You know you're getting screwed. They know they're screwing you. The people who would be in a position to provide oversight knows screwing is taking place. But nobody does a goddamn thing to stop it! It's just taken to be a natural part of the order of the world like death and taxes.

Education is this beautiful thing that's been corrupted into nothing more than a giant fucking con. And it never ends. Just more fresh meat cycled through the grifter's paradise.

Open Source Textbooks (1)

danlip (737336) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016936)

If it's good enough for MIT, ought to be good enough for everyone.
http://ocw.mit.edu/about/ [mit.edu]
http://www.opensourcetext.org/ [opensourcetext.org]
(and many other references)

Re:Open Source Textbooks (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 3 years ago | (#34017172)

I took a college algebra course to refresh (I've done calc and stat). They gave this book: http://www.amazon.com/College-Algebra-Enhanced-Graphing-Utilities/dp/0136004911/ [amazon.com]

I bought this book recently to reteach myself math: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0030291070/ [amazon.com]

The assigned book was total shit. It talked about math some, then ran directly to the graphing calculator. Most students failed that class. *I* failed that class and I passed Calculus 2 and Statistics and Probability in my sleep (my teacher was pissed at my test scores, because I got 4 problems wrong EVER yet I never did any homework or classwork... the material was just easy for me, I handwaved at tests and got every single problem right almost every time); I failed Calc 2 recently (5 years of NOT doing math and I took Calc2 for a refresher) so I decided, hmm, I need algebra skills. Hmm, why can't I learn algebra now?

The book I got recently to self-teach uses a different model. Instead of running directly to the graphing calculator, it... well, it does cover graphing calculators, spreadsheets, and computer graphing programs, yes. As an aside. Also it runs to Geometry and starts discussing the applications of Algebra in the study of Geometry. Also it pulls out real world problems solved algebraically. It also fully explains example problems, and incorporates a certain amount of overlap. Also, the author does some number theory coverage early, because he wants more wiggle room to explain concepts more clearly and to enter more advanced concepts.

The book I got myself teaches math. The assigned book I tried to use in the instructor-lead class teaches calculators.

What we need is GOOD textbooks. Not cheap textbooks, not expensive textbooks, not the latest edition of A FUCKING ALGEBRA TEXT discussing a subject that hasn't changed since BEFORE KNOWN CHINESE HISTORY (yeah, math has advanced... in the form of Geometry and Trigonometry and Calculus and Physics, not in the form of Algebra; and even then, not in the past 2 years). What we need is GOOD textbooks that cover the subject in the best way possible.

Buying books I can understand, but... (2, Informative)

supersloshy (1273442) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016954)

...requiring students to "buy" online books? What the crap? You don't buy the book, you license it (which this video explains [youtube.com] in a hilarious way). Students would have to use "approved" book readers to read these books. Students couldn't lend their books to other students. Students couldn't save money by buying used books. Students can't read these books without looking at a screen, and much less without a working computer (power outage, anyone?). This is by no means a good idea; maybe it would be for the book authors/publishers, but nobody else.

Anyone read/reference old textbooks? (1)

RevWaldo (1186281) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016972)

The one thing that always bothered me about students selling their textbooks after completing the course it that this action basically says "I took this class because the degree required it, and I will never have the need to recall this information for the rest of my days." Is this a cynical view, or just the practical reality? How many out there kept their textbooks and every once in awhile reference them or give them a good skim to refresh their knowledge?

In reference to e-textbooks I fear that DRM and/or format obsolescence will take away the option to hold onto the information, if that's what the student wants.

.

Re:Anyone read/reference old textbooks? (1)

CasualFriday (1804992) | more than 3 years ago | (#34017130)

I'm a history major and I've kept all of my books for my junior- and senior-level courses. Granted, they're not traditional "textbooks", but mostly histories, novels,and memoirs, but I plan to keep them in my classroom when I start teaching.

I'm okay with this (1)

CasualFriday (1804992) | more than 3 years ago | (#34016992)

This would be fantastic. I'll just start renting my textbooks. And by "start renting" I mean "keep torrenting".

Marketing move from publishers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34017048)

Yeah, bribe the prof, UNiv president, whoever, screw the students..

I know about these digital packs. Material you can get from various journals etc are included ina 'digital course pack'. You can read only by loggin into the site, cannot save, but only print etc. Nice move indeed. OTOH, you can print them out (on paper only).

No more used books.

Make USA expensive for everyone folks, make it so that ppl need to make 100K just to pay off those loans, and wonder WHY it's cheaper to outsource.

Start with regulations on academic and doctors salaries and you can mke this place bearable again.

I can see it now. (1)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 3 years ago | (#34017128)

"OK, guys. The material hasn't changed much this year, just the activation codes."

Other downsides of this model and the rental model (2, Insightful)

jirka (1164) | more than 3 years ago | (#34017134)

A downside to expensive books, renting textbooks, long textbooks, and now DRM ebooks is that students will just return them or not even have access to them after finishing a class. This is VERY BAD for education. For one, students should keep their calculus book throughout their college time. Otherwise you can't look up things you'll need later. Courses are not independent islands. You need what you've learned previously, and unless you are a genius and memorized everything ...

We need to push for either free open source non DRM textbooks (in my view the NC clause is permissible) or at least very cheap paper textbooks. Now if students didn't complain about their textbooks lacking color and being an old edition then it would be easier to just use a cheap Dover printed textbook. So the students are to blame for some of this as well.

Jiri

I just have to say (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 3 years ago | (#34017162)

Going to college has become a giant, legal racket for a lot of people. Professors make a lot of money for "teaching," publishers make tons of money on huge markups and edition changes that may only change a word or two or change the chapter order, and finally the Sallie Mae's of the world make huge money on brokering student loans. Personally, I am sick of it - I went to college and it did precisely dick for me. I got good grades and I am no further ahead than a colleague who did not go at all. In fact, my colleague makes nearly 40K a year more than me. Fuck the publishing companies! Fuck the money-making racket!
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